The 10th anniversary of mega-hit Broadway musical Wicked is in full swing this Samhain- perfect timing. As witches celebrate the high holiday, this show, through its pre-history of the wicked witch of the west, celebrates friendship and learning to see another way.
Wicked is phenomenal, as a Broadway extravaganza of song, dance, humor, brilliant set design, gratifying drama, and profound psychological, sociological and political content. I've made the show into a sacred space for me, a place of pleasure, peace, and freedom. Sometimes public spaces can become that- a sanctuary. I expect to see it again soon, for the 19th time. Generally I'm not a musical lover- but thankfully there are grand exceptions to my rules.
Elphaba is the witch, the quintessential outsider, green skinned and repulsive, although beautiful, to those who can see another way. She's smart, outspoken, has magic, and a sense of social justice. She is drawn to authority (the wizard) and discovers her own power. Galinda (the ga is silent) also knows about power, through her popularity based on looks and privilege. An unlikely friendship develops between these two young women, who end up accompanying each other through romantic and political turmoil.
The show is about how we treat others. Do we listen to animals, or assume they have no speech? Do we paint someone as evil, as the inhumane "witch," and rally around this object of hatred and avoid our own failings?
Wicked is about friendship, love, and forgiveness. It's about how we see and treat each other. It critiques authority, crowd psychology, and illusions of power. And it's about pleasure, freedom, and the chance to fly. The song, "Defying Gravity" is the glorious climax of the first act.
For those of us who like Elphaba are children of two or more worlds, always questioning where we fit, this show offers great relief. The art, the humor, the playfulness and the celebration show the absurdity of scapegoating, and convey that message better than a lecture ever could.
The show plays with magic, with spell casting and weather changes, in ways that are entertaining and not derogatory of the modern religion of witchcraft. And the show itself is magical: it is about the art of changing consciousness.
Starhawk, in Truth or Dare, writes that magic
"is the art of evoking power-from-within. Today, I will name it this: the art of liberation, the act that releases the mysteries, that ruptures the fabric of our beliefs and lets us look into the heart of deep space where dwell the immeasurable, life-generating powers. Those powers live in us also, as we live in them. The mysteries are what is wild in us, what cannot be quantified or contained. But the mysteries are also what is most common to us all: blood, breath, heartbeat, the sprouting of seed, the waxing and waning of the moon, the turning of the earth around the sun, birth, growth, death, and renewal."
In Wicked, the joy of defying gravity, of dance, of song, of finding intimacy, of living from passion, of transforming from shallow into more authentic life, of asserting one's sense of what is right, of finding love, of claiming power, all are magical and on full display. And in Wicked, the witch does not die, does not need anyone to mourn. She walks off into a new life.
Our heroines start out loathing each other, and come to help, fight, love and change each other. In the song "For Good," they sing,
"I do believe I have been changed for the better. Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
The Broadway musical Wicked is a force for good, through its enjoyable exploration of the social construction of "wickedness." It is art, it is magic, and it's success is reason to celebrate. Blessed Samhain.
P.S. Winning the pre-show raffle for $30 front row tickets makes this show affordable.